All my life, July Fourth has meant celebrating America with fireworks, barbecues, and in some of the smaller towns where I’ve lived, even a little parade. Well, here in Eugene, we do the fireworks and the barbecue, but our parade goes zipping by.
This morning, as the rest of the country turns up the air conditioning, I will take my cue from Hebrews 12:1 and run the race marked for me, surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. And I won’t be alone: I’m part of Northwest Christian University’s team entry in the 2012 Butte to Butte 10K run. The other runners include an administrator, a staff accountant, the Director of Alumni and Church Relations, and the Vice President for Finance and Administration: Michael, Aaron, Shannon and Lisa.
It’s a race, and some people are in it to win it, but I’ve always thought of the Butte to Butte as an opportunity to enjoy being part of the Eugene community. That’s a very NCU thing to do: from Embracing the Community day to Evening of the Arts, I’ve seen NCU does an unusually good job of not forming an impermeable bubble of Christians nodding in agreement with other Christians, but instead going where Christ sent us, to tell the good news to everyone.
The runners do all sorts of creative things: most years, at least one person dresses up as the Statue of Liberty. And last year, I saw a couple running together who obviously had something to celebrate. He was all in black, and she wore white. She had a white headband with a little white tulle stuck in it, and each of them had a sign on their backs: “JUST” and “MARRIED.” One of these years, I’ve thought about wearing a wig and flowing robe, and going as Elijah in front of Ahab’s chariot, or possibly John beating Peter to the empty tomb. If running ten kilometers in a robe on July 4th sounds crazy to you, permit me to point out that today’s forecast says the temperature won’t break seventy until mid-afternoon.
Even Eugenians who don’t run the race join in to be part of the cloud of great witnesses. Grandmas and grandpas, families with toddlers and dogs, all line the street to applaud and shout encouragement. A few people spray garden hoses up in a gentle arc so we have a nice curtain of cool water to run through. And the finish line is the epicenter of a huge street party, with live music and cheerful chaos. Naturally, once I cross it, I’ve worked up a fine appetite for barbecue, and I’m ready to sink into a lawn chair and enjoy some fireworks.
It’s not the kind of July Fourth celebration I grew up with, but it’s very Eugene, very NCU, and I’m thankful for it!
Associate Professor of Speech and Communication